Mediation consists of breath work practices where you breath in and out through your nose. Ideally meditation is practiced sitting up (with a straight spine) with hips above the knees and hands on the lap. Meditation and breath work help the body get into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest). When the body is in a parasympathetic state (not in a sympathetic state, aka fight of flight), the body stimulates saliva, slows the heart rate, stimulates the production of bile and digestion and causes intestinal muscle relaxation. When the body is in a sympathetic state, it inhibits saliva production, increases heartbeat, slows digestion, reduces blood flow and causes glucose release. So why practice meditation? For me, to help my body get into a parasympathetic state which is healing and makes me feel good!
Meditation was difficult to get in the swing of practicing. Sitting still and focusing on my breath was very challenging for me. For the first 4 months I meditated, I would sit for only 5 minutes 3-5 times per week. I would breathe in and out through my nose, I would focus on breathing into my belly, and I would count in my head until my 5 minutes was up. After those 4 months, I was able to go through the How to Meditate program by Jeff Warren, which consists of 30 10 minute meditations on the Calm app. After completing that, I took a meditation class where I learned a lot- various breathing, visualization and mantra techniques.
My favorite breathwork technique is called box breathing (or equal ratio breathing). In box breathing, you inhale, hold your breath, exhale and hold your breath for the same number of counts and repeat. For example, inhale for 5 counts, hold your breath for 5 counts, exhale for 5 counts and hold your breath for 5 counts. Repeat.
Now I meditate most days for 10-20 minutes. Sometimes I use guided mediations and sometimes I meditate on my own. I love to meditate in front of my red light (a post about that coming soon) before working out!